On May 1, 2017, Jimmy Kimmel announced in a tearful monologue that his newborn son William “Billy” Kimmel had open heart surgery because he was diagnosed with congenital heart disease.
Kimmel said his son was specifically diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia.
Kimmel used the moment to make a plea to American politicians, both Democrats and Republicans. He urged President Donald Trump and members of Congress not to make cuts to federal health programs that help people who aren’t as lucky as he is to be famous.
“Whatever your party, whatever you believe, whoever you support, we need to make sure the people who are supposed to represent us understand that very clearly,” Kimmel told his audience. “Let’s stop with the nonsense, this isn’t football, there are no teams. We are the team. It’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants. We need to take care of each other.”
After all the support he received, Kimmel took to Twitter to thank everyone on Twitter. He also asked his fans to donate to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Had Open Heart Surgery at Just 3 Days Old
Billy was born on April 21 and three days later, he was in surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. According to People, Billy’s parents named him after Guillermo, Kimmel’s Jimmy Kimmel Live sidekick (Guillermo is the Spanish version of William).
Kimmel told his audience that, just three hours after Billy was born at Cedars-Sinai, a nurse noticed something was wrong.
“My wife was in bed relaxing, a very attentive nurse at Cedars-Sinai heard a murmur in his heart and noticed he was a bit purple, which is not common,” Kimmel told the audience. “[Nurses] determined he wasn’t getting enough oxygen in his blood, either in his heart or lungs … It’s a terrifying thing, you know my wife is back in the recovery room, she has no idea what’s going on.”
The heart surgeon at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles told the Kimmels that their son had congenital heart disease and was born with a hole in the walls of his heart.
Billy’s first surgery was a success. In three to six months, he’ll have another surgery. He will also need a “non-evasive surgery when he’s older,” Kimmel explained.
“Poor kid, not only did he get a bad heart, he got my face,” Kimmel joked.
After six days in the hospital, Kimmel and McNearney were finally able to take Billy home.
2. Kimmel Said Cuts to the National Institute of Health Would Hurt Hospitals Like the One Where Billy Was Treated
During his monologue, Kimmel noted that President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts included slashing the National Institutes of Health‘s budget. Trump’s budget cuts didn’t happen, as Congress decided to give the NIH $2 billion more.
“More than 40 percent of the people who would have been affected by those cuts to the National Institute of Health are children, and it would have a major impact on a lot of great places” like Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Kimmel noted.
Kimmel noted how difficult it would have been before 2014 for anyone like Billy to get health insurance because congenital heart disease is a pre-existing condition.
“If your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not even live long enough to get denied because of your pre-existing condition,” Kimmel said. “If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right? We do.”
3. Doctors Still Aren’t Sure Why Congenital Heart Defects Occur
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes that doctors still do not understand the causes of a congenital heart defect, like the one Kimmel’s son needed surgery for. Heredity could play a role, since a child with a parent who also has a congenital heart defect is more likely to have one. But it’s rare for more than one child in a family to have it.
The NHLBI also notes that children with genetic disorders like Down syndrome often have congenital heart defects as well. The institute notes, “In fact, half of all babies who have Down syndrome have congenital heart defects.”
Some of the signs of a congenital heart defect include rapid breathing, a blush tint to the the skin and fingernails, fatigue and poor blood circulation. As the institute notes:
“Heart defects can cause heart murmurs (extra or unusual sounds heard during a heartbeat). Doctors can hear heart murmurs using a stethoscope. However, not all murmurs are signs of congenital heart defects. Many healthy children have heart murmurs. Normal growth and development depend on a normal workload for the heart and normal flow of oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. Babies who have congenital heart defects may have cyanosis and tire easily while feeding. As a result, they may not gain weight or grow as they should.”
4. The CDC Estimates That 1 Percent of U.S. Babies are Born Each Year With Congenital Heart Defects
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 percent – or about 40,000 – births in the U.S. each year are affected by a congenital heart defect (CHDs). About 25 percent of the babies born with a heart defect have a “critical CHD,” meaning that the infant will need surgery within the first year of his or her life.
The CDC notes that it CHDs are the leading cause of birth defect-associated infant illness and death. One study found that 4.2 percent of all neonatal deaths were caused by a CHD.
A study in 2010 estimated that 2 million infants, children and adults were living with CHDs in the U.S.
Emedicine.Medscape.com explains that Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia makes up about 2 percent of congenital heart disease.
“Tetralogy of Fallot is composed of a malaligned ventricular septal defect (VSD), anterior shift of the aorta over the VSD (overriding aorta), obstruction of the right ventricular outflow tract, and right ventricular hypertrophy (see the following video). Pulmonary atresia with VSD is considered the extreme end of the anatomic spectrum of tetralogy of Fallot,” the site reports.
5. His Sister Jane Was Born in 2014
Kimmel and McNearney welcomed their first baby, daughter Jane, on July 10, 2014, their representative confirmed to People Magazine. “Molly is doing great,” a rep told the magazine.
Jane is a healthy little girl and has made appearances on JKL. For example, she appeared in a sketch for Mother’s Day 2016, which she ruined. He also tried to ruin her Halloween by telling her that he ate all her candy! Check that out in the video below.
Kimmel also has two grown children, Kevin and Katie, from his first marriage to Gina Maddy.